Horatio McCulloch, RSA

1805 - 1867

During his lifetime Horatio McCulloch became the best-known and most successful landscape painter in Scotland. His constant aim was to paint the silence of the Highland wilderness where the wild deer roam with the kind of poetic truthfulness he admired in Wordsworth. The accomplished watercolours and broadly painted oil sketches that he produced throughout his career attracted little notice at the time and have remained comparatively unknown.

His early works include paintings of Cadzow Forest near Hamilton and grand views of the Clyde. He undertook regular summer sketching tours of the West Highlands, completing the sketches as paintings as back in his studio. These paintings celebrate the romantic scenery of the Scottish Highlands and evoke a magnificent sense of scale, emphasizing the dramatic grandeur.

Horatio McCulloch had by his death in 1867 created the essential iconography of the Highlands. From a historical point of view, as the Scottish Lowlands became more urbanised, the distinctiveness of Scotland came to be represented through the Highlands. McCulloch's work was part of a process of distancing the relationship of people to land in the Highlands. In the Victorian period the Highlands to be defined as a wilderness instead of a populated space and many communities were cleared from the land in favour of large sheep farms and sporting interests. In essence, this romantic view of Scottish scenery was brought to a climax by Horatio McCulloch.